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Friday, 27 July 2007

Suspicious mind, but no consent

Another bouquet to LexisNexis Butterworths for picking up this little case on its subscription-only service: it's Unilever plc and another v Morris & Son and another, a decision yesterday from Mr Justice Mann in the Chancery Division of the High Court for England and Wales.

Morris was a parallel importer of Unilever's SURF brand detergents. A batch of SURF products which Unilever marketed in Canada was sold on to brokers, who in turn sold them to Morris - who marketed them in the European Economic Area (EEA). Unilever sued for trade mark infringement, saying that they hadn't given consent for the resale of the goods in the EEA and seeking summary judgment. Morris agreed it needed consent to sell the stuff in the EEA, but argued that consent could be inferred from the fact that Unilever knew their Canadian customers sold the product to brokers, who in turn sold outside Canada, but did nothing to stop it.

Mann J allowed Unilever's application for summary judgment. On the basis of Morris's evidence [the IPKat says - this should read "lack of evidence"] there could be no argument that Unilever consented to the goods being sold in the EEA. Morris was relying on nothing more concrete than suspicions and beliefs that consent had been implied, but that was not evidence on which consent could have been found.

The IPKat really doesn't like these cases. Morris was not apparently legally advised. If he had been, he would almost certainly have conceded without a struggle; time and effort would have been saved, not to mention money. As it is, he will probably nurse grievances against a legal system that was unable to accept his suspicions and beliefs as a basis for implying consent - not to mention the grievances that all parallel importers feel when they're held liable for selling genuine goods and will never feel that they have done anything wrong.

Suspicious minds here
How to remove unwanted dirt here

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